I recently realized that my left leg is still far weaker than its companion. That I’ve grown accustomed to allowing the right to carry more than its fair share of the burden. During my initial recovery from surgery I did physical therapy and then signed up for and started going to a gym. I continued the gym through the first winter. Trying to exercise in the cold was difficult, and navigating snow and ice seemed treacherous. But as soon as spring arrived I told myself that going out for walks and bike rides was sufficient, and I could skip the gym.
Truthfully, I hate the gym. I don’t hate exercise – I hate the gym. If I could go to the gym and be alone I’d be fine. And I recognize that this isn’t the fault of other gym attendees – this is my anxiety, my hangup. Everyone’s here for the same reason, I tell myself. No one’s watching you. No one cares.
I returned to the gym about a week ago. It was confirmation of how weak my leg is. On many of the machines, my left leg can only handle half – or even less – of the weight that my right can. And it’s not just muscle weakness, though that’s profound. It’s also flexibility. And it’s pain. Doing leg lifts with a mere 30 pounds hurts my knee. It’s not a severe pain, not a pain that’s sufficient to stop me from doing the exercise, but it’s more than enough to acknowledge.
An amazing positive, however, is this – I can run. Not anything like I used to run, but I can run all the same. Last night I managed 3 miles in 35 minutes with a combination of brisk walking and running. I ran for at least a mile and half straight, making it up to 6.4 miles an hour. 5 years ago me wouldn’t be impressed, but considering I had resigned myself to never being able to run again I’m pretty pleased.
The first time I ran I was worried about trusting my knee to the point of actually visualizing falling off the treadmill. And it hurts. Again, not enough to stop me, but enough to recognize when it’s definitely time to leave off for the night. The next morning is rough. The morning after first time I ran (which was just over a mile at around 5.4 mph) I hurt enough that I was worried I’d made a horrible mistake. But as the day wore on the pain subsided, and was replaced with something new – my leg felt better. Not normal, but better. Profoundly so. It felt stronger. More trustworthy. More reliable. So much so that I realized I was engaging in activities that normally would have me conscious of my leg without a thought.
I’ve run 3 more times since then. The effect has been the same every time – bad morning, gradual improvement, amazing second day. Last night’s run was the first where I set the treadmill to random (prior to I ran at manual with a 1.0 incline). I’m definitely hurting this morning – but trying to convince myself it’s a good hurt.